Standing and Contracts

34 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2020

See all articles by F. Andrew Hessick

F. Andrew Hessick

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: March 24, 2020


In Spokeo v. Robbins, the Supreme Court held that, to establish Article III standing to bring suit in federal court, a plaintiff cannot simply allege the violation of a legal right. Instead, the plaintiff must allege an injury in fact. Although it addressed standing to bring suit for statutory violations, Spokeo raises serious questions about limits on the ability to bring breach of contract actions in federal court. After all, contracts simply create legal rights. Under Spokeo’s logic, the breach of contractual rights should not support standing; instead, standing exists only if the breach results in factual harm. But restricting standing in this way would significantly curtail freedom of contract and would render many traditionally enforceable contracts unenforceable in federal court. At the same time, creating an exception to the injury in fact rule for contract law would create anomalies that would threaten to destabilize standing law. The difficulties with each of those approaches casts serious doubt on Spokeo’s holding that the violation of a legal right does not support standing.

Keywords: Federal courts, standing, constitutional law, Article III, contracts

Suggested Citation

Hessick, F. Andrew, Standing and Contracts (March 24, 2020). George Washington Law Review, Forthcoming, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

F. Andrew Hessick (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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